At Puri, the crows.
The one wide street lolls
out like a giant tongue.
Five faceless lepers move aside
as a priest passes by.
And at the streets end
the crowds thronging the temple door:
a huge holy flower
swaying in the wind of greater reasons.
Taste for Tomorrow is a Puri poem dealing with India, the rock-built temples, priests and beggars side by side, faith and doubt in contrast with each other so full of reverence and so awe-inspiring and horrible which is but a general feature of our country. To read the poem is to be scenic and panoramic of classical temple, art and architecture, Vedic and Upanishadic chant and prayer taking to the swargadwara, gateway to heaven on the one hand while on the other doubt questioning faith ever held so pious and holy, sacrosanct and reverent. If there can be the stupendous temples with the gods dwelling in, why are there the beggars and lepers, is the question perturbing us? If God has created, why has He so the images so horrible and incorrigible? Who is truly a worshipper? Where is God? Where His temple? What is worship? Flowers of reverence into the folded hands? But why doubt intercepting it? God, where is it? Is it reverence or service? Where is God? An Odiya Christian poet he evokes the same question and here lies it his guts of raising it. Do we not get reminded of, ‘Service to man is service to God’?
At Puri, crows, so many crows cawing, flying here and there, where do they come from, where do they go away, crows leaving us not behind, why are so many crows? This is but a common picture of India which is here true to Puri. Crows can be found even during the pinda-dana ritual ceremony continuing on the burning ghat near the peepul tree or underneath any other else tree by the same riverside. We often see the crows in the country cawing at dawn break, ever ready to lift the bread crumbs from the bowl of the country children crying for stale food.
The wide street looking long and moving to the temple, the Jagannath Temple, is but so full of priests, devotees, worshippers, visitors and tourists. The temple city, a pilgrimage spot, what to say it about?
Five faceless lepers while passing by on the road move away a bit on marking the priest going and here doubt and suspense seem to be clawing pious and holy faith and we feel it crisscrossed internally as for what it is faith, what it not, what is piety, what is religion, where is it God? Why does God who is the Maker of it all not see them? Why are the things so? What it Divine Justice and Jurisprudence? We feel it within. We think it.
At the streets’ end, reaching the temple door, one may see the crowds thronging it, in lines and queues waiting as for the darshan of Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe, the lotus blooming ever so held with reverence and worship, but something corroding the self, asking questions as for the things seen in the street and something it as Divine Jurisprudence which but not known to us. The lotus which we want to see taking us by surprise, blessing with the unfolding of the petals or flowers offered to or the drops of water falling from the lotus carving of the ceiling of the temple, how to take to and tell thereof? The things are quite mythical and mystical beyond our reasoning. But what it in our reasoning, in the godly one, leaving the talk of karma-dharma, papa-punya, putting it aside for the time being? How to say about the Divine Scheme of Things?
Taste For Tomorrow though small in format is but a poem of a greater dimension and its theme cannot be delved at one go, one sitting of reading as one layer of meaning lies it embedded with another layer of meaning and the onion cover cannot be peeled. The more we peel the more it keeps appearing on. So is the case herein. It is a poem of a rock-built temple as well as the seaside. It is a poem of Lord Jagannath. It is for a darshan. It is also a poem of beggars. Leave you the talk of the priests, devotees and worshippers. But who made it? We know it not the architects and kings shrouded in mystery as our sense of historiography is so weak and we can faintly remember it.